This year, Eidos-Montreal celebrates its fifth anniversary. We go big around here, so to mark the special event we're unveiling the studio expansion. The cutting edge new installations include a mini-theatre, a recording studio, a cafeteria and a whole bunch of new desks ready to accommodate our growing team.
We seized this opportunity to chat with the very first employees of the studio and remember the highlights of the past five years. Eidos-Montreal General Manager Stephane D'Astous and Deus Ex: Human Revolution Producer David Anfossi, Game Director Jean-François Dugas and Artistic Director Jonathan Jacques-Belletête sat down with us to share their memories of Eidos-Montreal in the early days.
When did you join Eidos-Montreal?
Stephane D'Astous: I’m fortunate to be employee number 1. That’s why I like to say I’m the proud father of Eidos-Montreal!
David Anfossi: I joined the team in April 2007 as employee number 2... It's incredible, all the work we’ve accomplished in only five years!
Jean-François Dugas: I’ve been with Eidos-Montreal for almost five years. I was approached by the producer David Anfossi to work on an exciting franchise. I accepted and joined Eidos-Montreal as employee number 5.
Jonathan Jacques-Belletête: I joined Eidos in the spring of 2007. Back then, there was only like 6 of us in the entire studio. Thinking of it, I'm not even sure we had a studio yet... I was all eager to start working on Deus Ex 3, but we also didn't have our computers yet!
What attracted you to Eidos-Montreal?
SD: Obviously, creating and building a studio from scratch was a huge challenge, but it was also a dream come true. I couldn’t miss out on this once-in-a-life-time opportunity.
DA: When someone gives you free reign, for a producer, that’s heaven. I was able to surround myself with the people I wanted, put my own methods in place and, best of all, have total control over the content of the game.
JF: The opportunity to pick your team, that’s worth gold!
JJB: It was a pretty simple equation for me. It came down to working on one of my most favorite franchises of all time.
What was the studio like when you joined?
SD: For the first four months, the Eidos-Montreal head office was located… in my basement!
The First Eidos-Montreal Office
DA: Nothing, there was nothing... As Stephane said, we were working from home at the beginning.
JJB: We rented office space on the tenth floor of our current building in downtown Montréal. Me, David and Jean-François worked in a small space with big windows all around it. We called it the fish tank, and it eventually became what we now call our creative bubble.
The Creative Bubble
JF: I remember on our first day, we had no desks, nothing. We had to go in storage on the ninth floor to get tables, and Jonathan Jacques-Belletête and I spent our first day assembling them. As it turns out, we’re better at making video games than building furniture.
Any funny stories about the early days of the studio?
SD: Before we had official offices, I was doing several important key interviews and strategic business meetings directly at my kitchen table at home!
DA: I will always remember the ambiance in the first days. There were only a few of us, but there was already electricity in the air. It was effervescent, magical...
JJB: If you left your computer unlocked and unchecked, someone would send an email through your computer to the entire studio saying that you were happy to bring donuts for everybody the following morning. Needless to say, this became less and less funny as the team got bigger and bigger.
JF: In the first six months of the studio, we started Monkey Fridays, a group activity that combined our common passions: socializing and drinking! Each week, one person would bring ingredients to mix us all a specialty drink. Some evenings became legendary, and we even saw some couples come together!
What were your ambitions for the studio?
SD: To foster the best possible environment to successfully re-launch two major franchises and to host several of the group’s centers of excellence (QA, Tech, Marketing…)
JJB: To create a space where we could push certain things that other studios wouldn't generally let us do.
JF: From the start, it was clear that we wanted to create quality products. We're looking for warriors who want to make great games. That remains our objective for future projects.
DA: The Deus Ex: Human Revolution team really liked working together, so my ambitions were fulfilled.
Did you have any ambitions that could not be realized?
SD: Fortunately, we had great support from the head office; they gave me a lot of freedom in decision-making and action. I think we were pretty much able to realize our main goals in record time.
JJB: They were committed to give us anything we needed to realize our vision. It was just a matter of going through the proper stages of creation and lay down one brick at a time.
JF: To be honest, with DXHR, we fulfilled 85-90% of what we set out to do originally.
If you could start over, what changes would you make?
JJB: I mean, every studio goes through its share of mistakes and problems. That's just part of the game. But when I look back at what we went through, what we built and how we ended up doing it, I don't think I would fundamentally change much. I think that in the end, we achieved exactly what we set out for.
JF: I would include a creative bubble in the studio's development plan. It's an incredibly useful space when we're in the early design stage.
DA: I would change nothing, but I would push for certain features sooner, like the playtest lab, the screening room, etc.
The Playtest Lab
SD: Honestly, I wouldn’t change anything.
What was the most surprising challenge you encountered in building your team from the ground up?
JF: Dividing your time between the needs of game development and hiring: evaluating CVs and conducting interviews.
JJB: Making sure that everyone has the same vision and perspective on what needed to be achieved. This seems to be a bit easier when you are in a studio that has been running for many years and has numerous games under its belt. Those studios have some kind of in-house culture that is already installed and people (consciously or unconsciously) seem to follow it somehow.
SD: You can’t leave anything to chance. The devil is in the details. You need to be hands-on if you want good results fast.
Aside from DXHR, what achievement are you most proud of?
JJB: The strength and cohesion of the team we created. I'm really happy and proud of that.
JF: I am proud of the studio we created. Many people thought we were crazy to try to establish a new development studio in Montreal with such high ambitions. While the past is no guarantee for the future, we can’t deny our accomplishments so far, thanks to those bold enough to be a little crazy.
DA: The studio’s reputation. I’m very proud that our first game gave us such a great image in the industry.
SD: Witnessing the high level of pride of my employees, earning the thrust and respect of my peers, and… the EDGE magazine Studio of the Year award!
As the new expansion is officially revealed today, what are your hopes for the future of the studio?
JF: I want the studio to continue producing quality game with quality people, and I’d love us to get a real permanent creative bubble for projects in the early stages!
JJB: I hope we won't get too big. And of course, as cliché as it sounds, I think we've set some pretty good quality standards with our first game, so I hope these standards will be nurtured and respected in the future.
DA: I’ll do all I can to keep the studio on a human scale. We absolutely have to preserve the feeling of family; it is precious and makes all the difference in the games we produce.
SD: For our studio to be recognized as a true leader in our industry, with great game franchises and the best balance between people, tools and values.
The team over the years
Want to see our new facilities? Head over to the Eidos-Montreal site and watch the video to visit the studio with Elias "Adam Jensen" Toufexis!